Indian farmers want to march on Delhi; police move lower around the capital

Henry

Protesting farmers were dispersed with tear gas in northern India on Tuesday to prevent them from marching in their thousands to Delhi.

Farmers in India, who are pushing for legislation to set a minimum price for their crops, are threatening to march on the capital after recent talks with the government reached an impasse.

Hundreds of trekkers started making their way to Delhi from the surrounding states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh earlier today.

In response, the police set up several blockades of metal spikes, cement and steel barriers on the highways leading to the capital.

“Maximum numbers have been deployed,” Delhi Police Assistant Commissioner Ranjay Atrishya told AFP.

An AFP photographer reports that police also blocked the roads at Ghazipur on the outskirts of Delhi – a first line of defense – with razor wire, then metal barriers and concrete blocks and finally police buses.

Public gatherings of more than five people have meanwhile been banned in the capital.

​Farmers in India have political power simply because of their large numbers.

About two-thirds of India’s 1.4 billion citizens derive their livelihood from agriculture, which according to government figures represents almost a fifth of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

“We tried our best to solve our problems through talks with the government, but they insist on oppressing us,” says Sarwan Singh Pandher, a leader in farming circles, from Punjab.

“The government should listen to the farmers instead of using tear gas and guns against them,” says Randeep Surjewala, an MP from Haryana, where many of the protesting farmers come from.

The Indian government fears a repeat of the protests of 2021 and 2022 when farmers broke through barricades and entered Delhi.

The then protests against agricultural reform bills broke out in November 2020 and lasted for more than a year. The protests were then Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government’s biggest challenges since it came to power in 2014.

At least 700 people died during the protests.

Modi finally repealed three controversial laws in November 2021, a year after the protests began, which, according to farmers, would have resulted in private companies controlling the country’s agricultural sector.

Thousands of farmers in India take their own lives every year due to poverty, debt and crops affected by increasingly erratic weather patterns caused by climate change.